Many cars now come with features that take over in dangerous situations. Are you comfortable with this active safety technology that controls the car for you, or is it something you can live without?
Cars are getting smarter. And regardless of how you feel about it, one of the big goals of the car industry is to move to autonomous vehicles.
In fact, the UK government announced yesterday in Autumn Budget 2017 that it wants to see fully autonomous cars on UK roads by 2021.
But we need to take a step back. We don’t have fully autonomous cars that you can buy today. But we do have a large range of cars with ‘active’ safety features, so-called as they can intervene to improve safety.
But the questions is – how comfortable are you with these features?
Cruise control vs adaptive cruise control
When I’m driving along in my clunky, old Ford C-Max, there is very little in the way of active safety technology. I have cruise control, and I do use it, but it’s basic and simplistic, and not really a safety feature.
But adaptive cruise control is. Widely available on modern cars, it monitors the road in front of you. Should you be travelling faster than the car in front, the car will automatically slow down and maintain a distance between you and the other car. If the road clears, the car will speed up again to your desired speed.
Some systems are so advanced that they can handle crawling city traffic, bringing the car to a complete stop and then pulling off again when the traffic moves.
And we’re seeing additions to this technology. The BMW 5 Series I tested at the start of the year reads speed signs and adjusts the adaptive cruise control for you.
So, what other active safety features are you likely to find on the new cars of today?
Basic lane-keeping systems simply warn the driver if they let the car stray too close to the edge of their lane without indicating.
More advanced ‘active’ systems will automatically make steering adjustments to keep you within a lane. It’s worth stressing that the systems are meant as driver aids, and not as a form of autonomous driving.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) will audibly alert the driver to an impending collision. Should no action be taken, the system will automatically perform an emergency stop to either mitigate or completely avoid the impact.
One benefit of having a car with AEB can be that owners enjoy reduced insurance premiums over a comparable model without AEB. Some cars can now also add a steering input to steer you away in order to avoid a collision.
Blind spot warning system
This warning system reduces the likelihood of an accident when changing lanes by alerting drivers to unseen adjacent vehicles. This is normally done via a light in the door mirror, which is often backed up by an audible alert if you still try to change lanes.
Many cars fitted with cruise control also come with a feature to prevent the car being driven above a pre-set speed. Speed-limiting devices can normally be set to any speed and will gently reduce engine power when it is reached. Many systems will deactivate if the driver floors the accelerator, so they can still react to developing situations on the road.
Tyre-pressure monitoring systems
Having under- or over-inflated tyres can upset the car’s handling and lead to an accident. Tyre-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) warn of incorrect tyre pressures, helping you maintain them at the correct setting.
Active safety technology – are you for it?
What do you think – do you see these features as essential or useful? Would you pay extra to have them on your car or would you expect it all as standard? Does it worry you that too many automated controls are being added to our cars?
Let us know in the comments below, but also take our quiz so we can see which features you see as essential or not.